“All Aboard!”

I asked a bunch of New Jersey state legislators–Andrew Zwicker, Roy Freiman, and Mitchelle Drulis–where they stood on S.1923, which “[p]rohibits investment of pension and annuity funds by [the] State in companies that boycott Israel or Israeli businesses,” and A.3882, which establishes the State’s official definition of anti-Semitism. I also asked each of them for an explanation of why they hold the view they hold. Never got an answer from any of the three, so I’ve decided to return the favor in the upcoming primary election by voting against them, even if they’re the only choices on the ballot. Hard to vote for people who insist on turning the state legislature into a forum for the defense of an apartheid state, but can’t be bothered to explain what they’re doing or why. Continue reading

The Most Dangerous Game

For a moment the general did not reply; he was smiling his curious red-lipped smile. Then he said slowly, “No. You are wrong, sir. The Cape buffalo is not the most dangerous big game.” He sipped his wine. “Here in my preserve on this island,” he said in the same slow tone, “I hunt more dangerous game.”

–Richard Connell, “The Most Dangerous Game

Anyone who favors intervention in the war in Ukraine owes it to themselves to read about the emerging consensus on nuclear war over Ukraine. A year ago, anyone who brought the subject up was dismissed as a pacifist, a scare-monger, a defeatist, or a crank. Now, a little over a year later, the idea of nuclear war is being normalized in military circles in both the United States and in Russia. Sober, respectable, mainstream strategists are now beginning to speak and write as though nuclear war was just another one of those things that’s headed our way, and will just take a bit of getting used to. Continue reading

The Writing Not on the Wall

Note: I’m going to leave this post as is, but I intend to re-write it and re-post it this weekend. All of the relevant information is here, but it was recorded as I learned new facts in real time. As a result, some information is in the original post and some is in the comments, making it hard for the average reader to follow. My bottom line view: Hicks is flat-out lying, Freiman is grandstanding in an intellectually dishonest way, and Balhorn’s view is as unjustifiable as I said it was, for just the reasons I gave. 

It’s kind of sad that neither party to the dialogue of the deaf below–Stephen Hicks or Jacobin–shows much awareness of the fact that an “ugly, menacing,” and for many non-citizens “no doubt heartbreaking” wall has stood for 20+ years between Israel and Occupied Palestine, with armed guards and barbed wire, intended precisely to contain and control people.*


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Failing the Empathy Exams Yet Again, Starring Chat GPT

We’ve taken too much for granted
And all the time it had grown
From techno-seeds we first planted
Evolved a mind of its own

–Judas Priest, “Metal Gods”

I had a conversation with ChatGPT about my latest blog post, “Failing the Empathy Exams.” I began by feeding the whole post into ChatGPT, but was told it was too long, and that ChatGPT was incapable of processing something that long. So I gave it smaller chunks, and decided to have a conversation with it about those. I started by asking it to write an improved version of the opening paragraph of the post. 

This is what it said: Continue reading

Failing the Empathy Exams

The wounded woman gets called a stereotype and sometimes she is. But sometimes she’s just true.
–Leslie Jamison, “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain,” The Empathy Exams*

On the day before New Year’s back in 2021, I found myself riding the train to work when, one stop after mine, a vaguely familiar woman got on. Or maybe I should say, struggled on. She was, I guess, in her sixties, heavy-set, apparently in pain, though not from any obvious cause, and was struggling with a shopping cart full of possessions. At first, in a reflexive reaction to the shopping cart, I took her to be a homeless person, but that turned out not to be the case. She clearly had trouble moving, and had trouble getting the cart onto the train. I half got up to help her, but not knowing how my gallantry would be received, sat back down and watched her struggle. It was rush hour, just before 8 am. Continue reading

An Open Letter to the Jewish Community of Northern New Jersey

An Open Letter to the Jewish Community of Northern New Jersey
From Jewish Voice for Peace of Northern New Jersey
May 5, 2023Jewish Voice for Peace logo

Massive demonstrations have been taking place in Israel over the future of its judiciary amid rising authoritarianism. Democratic activism is most welcome, but, overwhelmingly, the protests do not focus on the more than half-century occupation that Israel has imposed on the Palestinian people or the continued second-class status of those Palestinians who are Israeli citizens. Still less do the demonstrations draw attention to the Nakba (the “catastrophe”), the ethnic cleansing that the indigenous Palestinian population experienced seventy-five years ago at the founding of the Israeli state. Continue reading

We the Living

Encountered this quotation on Facebook today, in a post intended to dismiss fears of job loss through technology:

It is much easier to imagine someone losing their job to a new technology than it is to imagine many people gaining jobs that haven’t been invented yet.

Yes, it’s definitely easier to imagine something that’s happened than something that hasn’t. But what does that prove? Does it prove that fears about job loss are unfounded? Or does it prove the reverse, that those who deride such fears lack common sense? Continue reading

Reason Papers 43:1, JARS 23: Bromance, Romance, Scholarship

I’m very happy to announce the publication of Reason Papers 43:1 (Spring 2023), and the final, double issue of the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (JARS) 23:1-2. There are a bunch of interconnections between these two journals, and connections back to PoT. Being the gossip hag that I am, I’m going to give you the juicy back story (romance, bromance, and all), so hold on to your hat.

The main piece of backstory here is that both journals bear a connection to Ayn Rand and the (American) Objectivist movement. (The preceding links go to Wikipedia, which was founded by Jimmy Wales, who was also a member of the Objectivist movement. You can’t make this shit up.) Reason Papers was founded in 1974 by Tibor Machan, a fervent Randian; JARS was founded in 1999 by Chris Sciabarra, a fervent Rand scholar. Many of the people associated with Policy of Truth were once Randians, associated in some way with one or both journals and/or the Objectivist movement. Whatever our proximity to or distance from Rand and Objectivism at this point, many of us still a bear a close relation to one another, and so, still find ourselves arguing about Rand and related topics (Aristotelianism, libertarianism, aesthetic Romanticism, etc.), whether as impartial scholars, as Rand-sympathizers, or as critics or even antagonists of Objectivism. Continue reading

The Man Who Laughs

Humor is a funny thing. What we find funny–what we spontaneously laugh at–tells others more about us than might be revealed by an extended interview. Consider this passage from a blog post dedicated to the defense of what its author regards as “Enlightenment values.” The author quotes a passage from Zeev Sternhell’s The Anti-Enlightenment Tradition, and comments as follows:

Sternhell takes Rousseau and Kant to be Enlightenment figures, though he is very aware of their being “complex and ambiguous figures in the history of Western political thought.”

(By contrast, I take Rousseau and Kant to be Counter-Enlightenment figures, though I agree very much with Sternhell that those are difficult judgment calls. And I laughed out loud at his quoting from Judith Shklar’s Men and Citizens on Rousseau as “the Homer of the losers.” Perfect.)

So “the Homer of the losers” is supposed to be funny. Maybe because losers are?

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